fisher king

The Fisher King (film)

The Fisher King is a comedy-drama film made in 1991, written by Richard LaGravenese and directed by Terry Gilliam. It starred Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer and Michael Jeter. The film is about a radio shock-jock who tries to find redemption by helping a homeless man whose life he inadvertently shattered.

Peter Travers, of Rolling Stone magazine, wrote that the film "sweeps you up on waves of humor, heartbreak and ravishing romance." Other reviewers commented on its "industrial-strength whimsy."


A Modern Day Tale About The Search For Love, Sanity, Ethel Merman And The Holy Grail.


Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges), a cynical, arrogant shock jock talk radio host, becomes suicidally despondent after his on-air comments inadvertently prompt a psychotic caller to commit multiple murders at a popular bar. Three years later, while heavily intoxicated and depressed, he attempts to commit suicide. Before he can do so, he is mistaken for a homeless person and is attacked and almost set on fire by ruffians. He is rescued by Parry (Robin Williams), a deluded homeless man who is on a mission to find the Holy Grail, and tries to convince Lucas to help him. Lucas is initially reluctant, but comes to feel responsible for Parry when he learns that the man's condition is a result of witnessing his wife's horrific murder at the hands of Lucas's psychotic caller.

The title refers to the legend of the Fisher King, a form of which Parry recounts to Lucas. The legend varies, but all iterations possess three elements: the Fisher King was charged by God with guarding the Holy Grail, but later incurred some form of incapacitating physical punishment for his sin of pride, and had to wait for someone to deliver him from his suffering. This was usually Percival, who was also referred to in the movie as "The Fool", with the closing exchange, "How is it that you found what my brightest and bravest could not?" The Fool laughed and said "I don't know. I only knew that you were thirsty." Echoes of the legend recur throughout the film, but in a continually shifting manner, so that it sometimes appears that Lucas is Percival to Parry's Fisher King, sometimes vice versa, and sometimes that one or the other is re-enacting part of the story with another character (most obviously in Parry's self-assigned quest to obtain the Grail from the man he believes is its guardian).


A central theme of the film, playing on the grail motif, is grace and forgiveness. Jack's signature line in his potential sitcom is "forgive me," which he is constantly repeating but can't get right. Parry is seeking the Holy Grail, which held the wine of the Last Supper and, at the crucifixion, its theological equivalent, the blood of Christ - the very source of grace and forgiveness. The Red Knight figment that Parry sees around New York seems to himself. When Parsival introduces himself to King Arthur's court, Arthur names Parsival the new Red Knight.


According to Gilliam's episode of The Directors (which is available on the 2-Disc DVD for Gilliam's film Time Bandits), he wanted to do the film because he was tired of doing big budget special effects films, such as his previous film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which went over budget and cost over $45 million, nearly twice as much as King's budget of $24 million. This was the first film Terry Gilliam directed in which he was not involved in writing the screenplay, as well as Gilliam's first film not to feature any other members of Monty Python. However, it is Gilliam's second film involving the Holy Grail, the first being Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Also, according to the Directors episode, Gilliam came up with the scene where Robin Williams and Amanda Plummer meet during a huge waltz in the middle of Grand Central Station, because he felt the scene LaGravenese had written (which had a large group of people in a crowded subway listen to a homeless black woman sing with a beautiful voice) wasn't working. He was at first hesitant about this because his original intentions were to just shoot the script and that the waltz would make it "a Terry Gilliam film." The scene was shot in one night with some professional extras and others just passengers getting off the train.

The film cost $24 million to make. Box Office revenue was approximately $42 million.


Mercedes Ruehl won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role, and Robin Williams was nominated for Best Actor. Other awards were Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (P. Michael Johnston), Best Music, Original Score (George Fenton) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Richard LaGravenese).

Mercedes Ruehl also won the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Award for Best Supporting Actress, the American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

Robin Williams won a Golden Globe for 'Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture in a Comedy/Musical'.

Terry Gilliam won the People's Choice Award from the Toronto International Film Festival and the Silver Lion in the Venice Film Festival (the latter tied with Zhang Yimou and Philippe Garrel).

Jane Jenkings and Janet Hirshenson won an Artios Award from the Casting Society of America for 'Best Casting in a Feature Film (Comedy).'

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